Medal-seeking Swedes spurred by revenge
Sweden striker Hanna Ljungberg is still smarting at her country's 2-1 defeat to Germany in the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 Final. "I'd love to see another Final between Sweden and Germany - and there won't be a Golden Goal this time around," she said before the Olympic Football Tournament began. Fate and results have duly presented Ljungberg with a chance for revenge when the teams meet again at the Karaiskaki stadium in Piraeus on Thursday evening, although the medal at stake is not gold but bronze following the Swedes' defeat to Brazil and Germany's reverse against the USA in the semi-finals.
Germany keeper Silke Rottenberg wins her 100th international cap, an achievement that will be recognised by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and German Football Association (DFB) President Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder before the match. The netminder reckons her side are up for winning a bronze medal. "Obviously, I'd have preferred my 100th international to be the Final, but I'm as much to blame as anyone that it hasn't turned out that way. We're determined to win a medal." FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003 Birgit Prinz vowed to leave Greece on a high note: "I hope the team contributes to a successful 100th match for Silke," she said.
Coach Tina Theune-Meyer believes her side can bounce back from the semi-final defeat: "We know the Swedes well. We know they're strong up front. But we believe in ourselves, even if we're still weary after 120 hard minutes against the USA. I'm hoping we have enough energy left over." The coach's comment is a relevant one as it will require a major act of courage for the Germans to respond after the psychological blow of defeat to the Americans.
Theune-Meyer spoke bluntly after reviewing a video of her team's disappointing semi-final display. "It had nothing to do with bad luck. We didn't show any of the virtues we used to call our strengths." And it was scant consolation for Theune-Meyer when US star Kristine Lilly approached her at Heraklion airport, where the teams were waiting to fly to Athens, and congratulated her squad on a good performance. The Americans had run themselves into the ground, the 33-year-old midfielder admitted, but it is they who are in the Final.
The Swedes may have the edge in terms of desire then, as they eye a first-ever Olympic medal, with coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors in upbeat mood. "Germany have only beaten us narrowly on the last couple of occasions, and I reckon their game suits us better than Brazil's."
Karolina Westberg and Josefine Öquist are rated doubtful with muscle strains, but the Swedish boss reckoned one or two German players were not fully fit either. Domanski-Lyfors felt Germany's 120-minute semi-final battle would hardly affect their display in the third place play-off: "I don't think it will have much influence. You dig deep and draw on your last reserves for a match like this. But I reckon we're more up for the fight than they are."